A new study out of the University of New Hampshire suggests that more bystanders are offering support and help to victims of bullying, both in person and online.
The study, “Victim Reports of Bystander Reactions to In-Person and Online Peer Harassment: A National Survey of Adolescents,” conducted phone interviews with 791 youth between the ages of 10 and 20 between December 2013 and March 2014. Questions were based on the Technology Harassment and Victimization Survey.
Results of the national survey found that bystanders were present for 80% of harassment incidents, and 70% of cases resulted in a bystander trying to make the victim feel better.
“It’s possible that prevention education and public awareness are possibly changing behavior,” said Lisa Jones, the study’s lead author.
Most commonly, the bystanders asked the bully to stop their actions, telling the victim they were sorry for what had happened, finding an adult, or getting help from other children nearby. In 78% of the cases, the victim told someone else about the bullying, writes Jason Schreiber for The New Hampshire Union Leader.
“It doesn’t mean you have to step into the middle of a scene. Any kind of expression of support is something they can do,” said Jones, a senior researcher at the Crimes Against Children Research Center and an associate professor in the psychology department at UNH.
Although a large portion of bullying incidents resulted in the victim receiving help from bystanders, negative reactions were seen from bystanders in about one quarter of all cases, including laughing or joining the bully. According to Jones, those reactions had significant effects on the victim, often times making them feel worse.
Jones went on to say that additional research on the topic should expand upon the definition of bystander in an effort to include “secondary bystanders,” or people who later heard about the incident and could have taken action after.
Carol Croteau, the founder of Bully Free New Hampshire, held a mixed reaction to the study results, saying the findings may not accurately reflect what is going on in the state, an attitude she says is informed by the families she interacts with.
“We know that bystanders tend not to get involved because they don’t want to have any association with the target for fear of retaliation or being bullied because of their association. I’m not hearing that bystanders are trying to stop the bullying,” she said.
Croteau went on to say that although adults may be being told about such incidents, they “are not doing something about it as often as they should.”